For nearly 50 years, Brookdale Community College has gone above and beyond the traditional role of a county college. From free arts events and job training programs to affordable summer camps, academic workshops and charitable donation drives, Brookdale has sought to serve as a resource for all residents of Monmouth County, regardless of age, background or education level.
But in 1995, a small group of employees decided to expand that mission even further. They created the Brookdale Employee Volunteer Connection (EVC), a grass-roots campus organization designed to harness the power of the college community in support of local charities, residents and families in need.
Beginning with only five members, the EVC now boasts a membership of more than 100. The group runs a wide range of annual events and donation drives – including the popular “Empty Bowls” program and an annual holiday giving tree – that support local food pantries, shelters and other outreach groups.
On Oct. 1, one of those groups formally recognized the EVC for their years of support. HABcore, Inc., a Shrewsbury-based nonprofit offering comprehensive housing services and support for homeless individuals and families, presented members of the EVC with an award and a certificate of recognition honoring their “sustained dedication to HABcore’s mission.”
The award came on the heels of a similar honor bestowed on the EVC by Family and Children’s Services of Monmouth County, an outreach and support organization based in Long Branch.
On Oct. 2, the Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders officially declared Oct. 2, 2015 as “The Brookdale Employee Volunteer Connection Day.”
“It really does take a village,” said learning space specialist and EVC member Denise Vigil. “People suffer hardships on all levels at various stages of life. While it is always nice to be recognized, volunteerism is not about notoriety. It’s about strengthening a community, showing those in need that someone cares, lending a compassionate ear or simply bringing a smile to someone’s face.”
In addition to the Empty Bowls program, which raised nearly $1,500 last year for the Manasquan Food Pantry, the RAINE Foundation, St. Peter’s Episcopal Church Community Outreach and HABcore, EVC members provide and deliver dinners for HABcore six times each year.
The group also runs the annual Project Backpack, which collects backpacks and school supplies each for local children in grades K-5, and the annual Giving Tree program, which collects hundreds of gifts and monetary donations for dozens of local families each holiday season.
“Over the years we have participated in many charity and awareness walks, food drives, Project Read, Project Eat, Daffodil Days, raised funds for Hurricane Katrina and victims of 9/11, and collected prom dresses, coats, donated suits and clothing for Displaced Homemakers, among other efforts,” said EVC chair and accounts payable specialist Helen Vota.
“We have very generous employees who give so much to make sure every event is a huge success. While we are honored to be recognized by our partners, the greatest reward is the look we see on the faces of the residents and families we are able to help. It reminds us that we are really making a difference in our community.”
To learn how to participate in the Employee Volunteer Connection, contact Helen Vota.
(Feature photo by Mark DeYoung, college relations intern)